Monday, February 18, 2013

Dru's Black Bean and Pinto Chili

With a few cold winter days still in our future, a new twist on chili will be a welcomed meal!  This simple, made from scratch recipe, is switched up from the norm by replacing red beans with black beans and pintos.

1 large can petite diced tomatoes
1- 14 oz can petite diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1-14 oz can black beans
1-14 oz can pinto beans
1 to 1 1/2 lbs ground chuck
1 medium onion diced
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
2 tbs brown sugar
2 tsps ground cumin
2 to 3 tsps chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp kosher salt

Brown and drain beef; saute onion and crushed garlic cloves. Place all ingredients in a large pot and simmer for as long as you can resist eating it. There is no exact recipe, add more or less spices to suit your taste. I don't like really spicy chili, some people do. Just keep adjusting until it's what you like.

Garnish with mild cheddar cheese, avocado, or sour cream. For a crunchy addition Frito's or multi-grain torta chips hit the spot!

Dru, thank you so much for this recipe! It is absolutely delicious!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chocolatiers "Beyond Compare"

The Appalachians are sprinkled with wonderful chocolatiers and candy shops. Of the many worthy businesses I have found, two companies are very different but both are "beyond compare." The first company is the renowned Ruth Hunt Candy Company of Mt. Sterling, KY. In 1921, Ruth Tharpe Hunt began selling confections to her friends and family. It went so well she opened a small candy store in her home. She paid strict attention to detail and made each candy with the finest ingredients. The company now offers 70 kinds of candy. The Blue Monday Cream Pie chocolate bar is one of the favorites. Other favorites are the bourbon chocolates and a big selection of equine products (sold at the Kentucky Derby) .Celebrating 92 years in business, Ruth Hunt candies are a Kentucky landmark!

Ruth Hunt's Handmade Chocolates
The Original Ruth Hunt House

The second is a "bean-to-bar" business called the French Broad Chocolate Company in Asheville, NC. It was established in 2007 by the Rattigans to bring a natural and creative chocolate experience to its customers. Complete with a chocolate lounge, factory, and tasting room, this chocolate company has impacted Asheville and the surrounding areas in a big way. They are building a big local business of not only chocolate bars, truffles, and brownies but also chocolate drinks. They also offer chocolate bars from around the world.

For a unique experience, I suggest a visit to the chocolate lounge! But expect to stand in line.                                       

Both businesses offer online sales too. Check these "Chocolatiers Beyond Compare" !                      

A Polar Plunge

I loved a recent article in the Blue Ridge Outdoors by Will Harlan titled Polar Barely. He describes taking part in a different New Years event called the Polar Bear Swim. You swim out 50 meters and back into a mountain lake on the first day of the year. He describes the people, the physical challenge and the exhilaration he felt. This article is delightful, check it out at

I also saw a recent episode of the Bachelor where the dotting ladies took a plunge into an icy lake in Montana. If you feel drab from winter you have a couple more chances this year to take a polar plunge!

Appalachian State University in Boone, NC will hold its 14th annual plunge at the campus Duck Pond on Feb 16th, 4PM.  You can register up until 3PM.  The $25 entrance fee is to help support the Watauga County Athletes.

Lake Lanier Islands Resort in Buford, GA is having their 4th annual Polar Plunge on Feb 16th also! First they will have a costume contest on the beach from 1- 1:30PM.  Then at 1:30PM there will be a safety briefing and plunge time will be at 2PM.

Happy plunging!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A "Heart Felt" Mouse

This heart shaped mouse is adorable and easy to make! A fun toy for your kitten or a unique keepsake. This crafty mouse is made with a few supplies you may already have around the house.

Tools needed:  If you have a sewing machine it will make this project very quick but needle and thread will be helpful too. A hot glue gun will come in handy when gluing on the ears, eyes, nose and accent button. 

To make this little mouse, you will need to cut 2 pieces of felt in the shape of a heart, and 3 other small circles of felt for the eyes and nose. A tiny piece of fabric to create the ears. Some polyfill to stuff him with. A short piece leather string for the tail and a few strands of cotton strings for the whiskers.  Last but not least, a button or some type of accent to add a nice touch to your mouse.  (The large paper clip was just for a size reference.)

Everyone that have seen these little guys have "Eeked' with excitement, so I hope you enjoy them too!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Earthy Scents for Wintertime Blues

"If your ideal mid-winters night involves a soft sweater, shearling slippers, and a good book by the fire, you might look to natural aromas to enhance that snuggly feeling. "Earthy scents connect you with the elements," says Tanya Bochnig, a natural perfumer (Whole Living Magazine; January/February issue).

So go ahead! Fill your hibernation den with the earthy aromas that whirl about you in the great outdoors.   Cedar, nuts, amber, fir, musk and sandalwood... Old man winter might keep me indoors but thanks to my nose, I can get a daily reminder of what is outside my front door!

Interested in buying some earthy scents of your own? There is a company from Great Neck, NY called Demeter Fragrance that is sure to please. Some of their scents are 100% natural while other, more complicated scents, require a bit more chemistry. Dirt, lava rock, and beeswax are just a few of their more complicated brews.

If you would like to check out the Demeter Fragrance website, click here.  While on this page, if you would like to navigate your way to the natural scents that they offer, click "Demeter Naturals." If you would like to browse the more random scents, select "Classic."  It is sure to amuse you!

I have always loved being in the great outdoors! There is nothing more relaxing than being outside and enjoying the beautiful things God created. Even though the weather may have me trapped inside, I am still able to bring a little of the outdoors into my home!